Paras Khadka: 'my commitment will always be the same as long as I keep playing for Nepal'

Former captain opens up on franchise cricket, getting picked by Team Abu Dhabi and his international future

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 25, 2019: Paras Khadka of Nepal takes the wicket of Muhammad Usman of the UAE in the the match between the UAE and Nepal in a one day internationl. Friday, January 25th, 2019 at ICC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National
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When Team Abu Dhabi went against T10 convention and opted to sign a Nepal cricketer, rather than any from a list of renowned former India internationals, they knew what they were doing.

Each of the eight franchises in the Abu Dhabi T10 are obliged to include one “international community promoter” player in their squad for the tournament.

It is a marketing tool designed to attract supporters of players like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan to the league.

The newest T10 franchise knew they were onto a winner when they opted to look beyond India to Nepal, and recruit Paras Khadka instead. At a stroke, they landed a legion of supporters for a team that was less than a month old.

Now, they might be thinking they should have been careful what they wished for. When Khadka was rotated out of the playing XI for the third game of the tournament, it proved a highly unpopular move.

He had barely had the opportunity to show his worth when he lost his place in the side, and the response from back home was unforgiving on social media.

“Please send our Paras back, he is much bigger than your T10 league!” one supporter wrote on Twitter. It captured the mood succinctly.

Luckily for the man himself, he is well used to being patient. At the age of 32, he finally received his first shot at playing alongside global stars in a franchise league beyond his homeland – the Abu Dhabi T10.

And that despite being the leading player in a country that is an emerging force in the game for the best part of a decade.

“I wouldn’t call it frustrating, because for me playing for my country has been the ultimate dream and the ultimate challenge,” Khadka said.

“It has been a privilege and honour to represent my country. But having said that, obviously if opportunities had come along, I would definitely have taken those challenges.

“Now, with myself being free, I can choose – if I get selected – to play in certain leagues if I want to.”

Khadka’s circumstances changed last month when he resigned as Nepal captain, a day after the country’s cricket board was officially accepted back as an ICC member.

For much of the recent past, Khadka had been as much administrator as captain, managing the off-field logistics of Nepal cricket along with an ICC working party, in the absence of a board that was fit for purpose.

“I gave up my captaincy on October 15, then this opportunity came five days after,” he said of joining Team Abu Dhabi.

“It is strange how life works sometimes. You give up something, and immediately something else comes along. I didn’t put my name in the draft, because we had a local franchise league happening in Nepal, and all of a sudden the Emerging Teams Asia Cup came up when Nepal was not even supposed to participate, but UAE pulled out.

“And yet, here we are today.”

He was recruited sight unseen by Trevor Bayliss, Team Abu Dhabi’s coach, after glowing recommendations from the UAE contingent within the franchise.

They know his abilities well as UAE and Nepal have built up a strong rivalry on the field in recent years.

For example, Khadka scored a century when guiding Nepal to their first one-day international series win, against the national team in Dubai in January.

“When we were looking at who to put in that position, his name was spoken of very highly, because of the type of character that he is and the skill he has got,” Bayliss said of Khadka.

When Khadka does return to national team duty, it will be a peculiar feeling with him no longer calling the shots.

The all-rounder, though, is confident he has made the right call, and that Gyanendra Malla, his long-time deputy, will be a worthy successor.

“I had to undergo a lot of things myself, personally looking after a lot of things, and I came to the conclusion it was time,” Khadka said of quitting captaincy.

“Why? Because, with the new management that have come in place, they should be able to work with freedom.

“For me, handling everything had become a little too much, and it had been 10 years that I had been captaining the team. You cannot go on forever.

“Right now, we are in the best possible state in terms of stability. With ODI status, we can work and build on something. We need to be patient, in terms of what results do occur.

“Gyanendra, who has been appointed the captain, and me are good mates, and we work as a team.

“It won’t be of any difference as to whether I am a former captain or a player, my commitment will always be the same as long as I keep playing for Nepal.”